Wednesday, March 19, 2008

repairperson needed

The autoclaving (sterilization) machines are new but have broken. The hospital needs to send their equipment across town for sterilization. It can take many days. One of their anesthesia machines are broken and one works. This limits the operating room use which is so needed. Does anyone know someone who can help train Rwandans to repair these machines? Email us at:

Monday, March 17, 2008


Basketball in Rwanda is fast, popular, and physical. At a local tournament over the weekend, the largest cheers went to players who made one-handed dunk shots around the outstreatched hands of their opponents, and two-handed dunk shots that left them dangling from the rim like ripe fruit ready to fall. One match-up featured a team of giants against another of amazingly agile ball-handlers. The three-point accuracy of the smaller team was no match for the slower but more powerful behemoths, and led to an easy victory. The dusty court was outdoors but protected from the sun by a large awning, and the concrete bleechers could seat hundreds. That's Claude watching the game with Karl.

We met up with Claude, the Rwandan student we ave supported since our visit to the country in 2006. As a genocide suvivor, he has faced seemingly insurmountable problems, including the loss of nearly all his family and destruction of the family home located in a semi-rural part o f Kigali. He has managed to complete a technical program in computer hardware and is looking forward to the practical training during which he will learn to assemble computers and networks.


A few days ago, we evaluated facilites the Kibagabaga Hospital in Kigali to help coordinate plans for an upcoming medical service visit sby doctors and nurses from Washington. We found that one of the most pressing need is for orthopedic services, since there is no orthopedic surgeon in the country, with a population of about eight million. We learned that just the equipment costs for such a program are staggering: one bid from a company in Belgium was over $100,000, or about 400 times the average annual wage. Without a way to collect te necessary capital, and with a population unable to pay for surgery, it will take some creative thinking to make an orthopedics program at Kibagabaga a reality.


We are trying to learn Kinyarwanda, the National language. It is very hard for us. However, just the few words we learned have come in handy both for getting along and giving Rwandans a good laugh. This is the lovely Amina, HDI secretary, teaching us some phrases.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Here is Karl trading songs with the Batwa. . They are thought to be the underserved of the underserved in terms of health. There is a UN report that describes their situation. www. He offered to sing an American Indian song from the MicMac tribe in exchange for a song and dance by the Batwa. They immediately connected to the drumming rhythm and sang along with the refrain of the song that he had learned as a Boy Scout scores of years ago. It was a cultural exchange of the best kind that transcended barriers of language and distance to allow us to share together a celebration of life�


We've been travelling to the "Community of Potters", formerly known at the Batwa (known as Pygmies to Americans)villages over the past few days and the results have been amazing. Both of us have reached deep into our past and called upon hidden talents that have not been used for decades. In this video, Patricia dances a traditional Batwa dance with the women elders of the village. They wanted her to spend the night, but we had other villages to visit and do needs assessments for health. It was an amazing learning experience that allowed us to gather information needed for a grant we are helping to write with our medical partners Kigali.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The show was a comic drama about personal hygiene, including sanitary methods of waste control and handwashing; the risk of contractign tuberculosis from sharing drinking straws with persons infected with TB; and, about how to access the local system of health insurance ($2 per person per year for comprehensive coverage). It was a big hit.


March 6, 2008

“Hello Phones”, is our cell phone store here in Rwanda. It's a one-room shop with fluorescently-lit counters on three sides, packed with mobile hand sets, behind which loiter bored-looking sales clerks. It sitst between a dry goods store and an electronics mart off one of the main business streets in downtown Kigali, a dirt street without sidewalks. I remember the details because it took us three trips there and back to get a cell phone that worked.

The first handset seemed fine, and despite that fact that it's tiny screen sported incomprehensable German text, we we reassured that there was a way to re-set the language to English. We left excited, and happy.

Two days later, after asking ten or so people for help, including our guest house manager, security guards, maintenance men, several doctors, secretaries and an assortment of passers-by, we were back at “Hello Phones”. It took some searching to find the place on our own, because of the plethora of similar shops that had somehow sprung up in the vicinity since our first visit. We stumbled past “Hi Phones”, and into “Hallo Phones” only to relize we were on the wrong block. Eventually we made it to “Hello” again.

The same clerk recognized us—not difficult since a mixed couple of white folks, tall man and short, red-headed woman, were unmistakeable. Another half dozen or so people scrutinized the phone, uttered expletives of shock and dismay in Kinyarwanda, and passed the handset on to the next person. Finally, a young man who appeared to be the cell phone techno geek started to pound furiously on the keys. After a short while he threw down the phone and said, in success “Shit!”. Again, we left happy.

However our disappointment quickly returned. It turned out that to make a call, we had to dial the telephone number four or five times, and still, we often did not connect. We were told that the network was on the fritz. “Keep trying”, said our friends, “It happens to us too. There are too many people trying to make a call.” We kept trying. No luck. Our friends tried to call their phones on our phone. No luck again. We headed back to “Hello Phones”.

The third time was a success. The bored assistant spoke to a supervisor and they tried to call too—again, no luck. They swapped out the SIM card into another model handset, and--Bingo. We were in business. We said good bye to “Hello Phones”, half certain that we were likely to be saying “Hello” again, in the not too distant future. �

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

In Kigali

We are here in Kigali and connected with Health Development International where we will be doing our work, starting tomorrow. We arrived in Kigali this morning minus two bags that contained medical supplies and Karl's clothes. The BP cuffs and batteries made it, though. The bag are lost somewhere between London and Nairobi. We hope they will be found and get to us soon. We are staying at the Cozy Guest House and our phone number is 03364704. The country code is 250 when dialing from outside Rwanda.